Thanks to Truly for this guest post on how to tackle your wedding venue search!
“A great marriage is not when the “perfect couple” comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” –Dave Meurer
The average wedding venue cost in the U.S. is $6,000. Crazy, right? Like it or not, the wedding venue search occupies a significant amount of couples' time and budget before the big day.
If you’re going to be forking out that kind of cash, it’s best to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
You don’t want to invest in your dream wedding venue only to be crushed by something. For instance, you don't want to tell Aunt Nan that she can’t attend due to poor wheelchair accessibility.
Or, worse, have something like this happen to you:
To prevent such nasty situations, we've compiled a list of nine of the most important questions to ask during your wedding venue search.
Review them, take your time, and don’t be afraid to be blunt with your venue coordinator. It’s better to know sooner than later.
First Things First: How Do You Begin Your Wedding Venue Search?
There are roughly 19,321,764 wedding venues in the United States (source unknown). So just the initial process of narrowing things down may take a while.
Start with picking a general location. Do you want something close to home, close to where you or your partner grew up, or in a tropical destination? Do you want a city or country wedding? Formal or informal? Inside or outside?
One low-cost option for finding a great spot is to browse wedding blogs, magazines, and social media to find something that fits your style. Keep in mind that highly polished, published photos are typically going to be over-the-top and "made for TV" style.
So there will be a pretty good chance that you could find something similar but at a significant bargain with a little effort.
And coincidentally enough, we've got a blog post for that. Click here to read our rundown of the best wedding venue in each of our 50 states. You can always give it a look for some ideas to get started.
Some Basic Questions to Get the Ball Rolling
When it comes to the wedding venue, there is a general checklist of essentials which will need tending to, but it all starts with payment.
First and foremost, take an honest look at your wedding budget. With wedding venues, there's no such thing as one price fits all.
Start by looking at the total cost of the venue, what’s included, and the required deposit. Now is not the time to be shy. So come right out and ask every detail with regards to fees. No one wants a surprise hidden fee after booking the venue.
Parking is another concern, especially if you have guests coming in from long distances. Ask what the parking facilities are like and how far they are from the venue. Confirm if there are any parking fees or restrictions.
You could also consider chartering a shuttle bus, particularly if the venue is far away from the hotels where most guests are staying. This option also works well if the reception isn't walking distance from the wedding itself.
Finally, ask if the venue has any other events planned for that date. You and your partner will probably not enjoy having your wedding ceremony on the same day as the Welsh Corgi Owners convention.
Outdoor Wedding Venues - Here’s What to Know
Getting married in an outdoor venue is not only romantic, but it can also save you money. However, with that comes added responsibility. Most of that revolves around the threat of bad weather.
If you have your heart set on an outdoor venue, ask your venue coordinator about backup plans for surprise thunderstorms or a heat wave. Do they have a cooling area if it becomes too hot? Do they have a protective tent or indoor space if it rains?
Your guests’ overall comfort is another consideration. Raise concerns such as how far the restrooms are from the main venue and their overall condition.
If you're having an evening ceremony in a tropical destination, will they provide insect repellent? These small details will have a lasting effect on your guest’s enjoyment of the wedding.
Once that's taken care of, think about outdoor entertainment. Is there a suitable space for the band or DJ to set up? Will the venue provide the dance floor, or will you have to rent one on your own?
What about electricity? Will they provide it for you, or will you be responsible for renting a generator?
Remember to have all these sorts of backup plans and minor details included in the venue contract before you sign on the dotted line.
What If I Want to Cancel My Venue?
Life happens, and sometimes the unforeseen becomes real. Because of life’s uncertainty, pay close attention to the cancellation policy of your venue contract. You don't want to be left holding the (very expensive) bag.
It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a general cancellation policy for all venues. They vary from place to place. You need to ask about the non-refundable deposit as well as any sliding scale. It would vary based on what services you receive from the date the contract was signed.
It also can’t hurt to take out your own, personal wedding event cancellation insurance from a private provider. Keep in mind that taking out personal wedding insurance generally only protects from cancellations due to inclement weather and illness. It normally does not protect against cancellation due to cold feet.
What About Wedding Liability Insurance?
No matter how carefully you plan your wedding, things can always go awry. A good rule of thumb is to always expect the unexpected. And that means having some solid insurance.
It’s important you ask each venue about their liability insurance coverage, and what it includes. Does their liability insurance only cover in-house vendors, and you're bringing your own booze? Then you'll have to find your own wedding liability insurance to cover any unforeseen incidents.
Your chosen venue may even require you to get your own liability insurance and bring proof before you book. This means that both the vendors and venue are covered in case sh*t hits the fan. If a venue does not have its own liability insurance, it's a good idea to keep looking. You never know how much havoc your groomsmen can cause.
Will You Have Enough Time To Decorate?
Before you even begin to shop for a wedding venue, make an educated guess about how much time you'll need to set up for the big day. Next, talk to each venue and ask if you can pop in the evening before to set up.
If not, they may require you to rent the space for two days - one day for setup, and one for the ceremony. Make sure you also ask about any additional setup fees.
When planning how much time you’ll need to decorate, consider the venue itself. Many indoor venues come equipped with suitable, indoor decor. However, if you want to have a more rustic celebration in a barn-style venue, then you’ll definitely need more time to decorate.
Once this is settled, ask about any decorating restrictions. For example, some venues won’t allow candles or live animals. That could mean your dream of having a Game-of-Thrones themed wedding with a million candles and direwolf ring bearers will go down the drain.
How to Find The Perfect Bridal Suite
You don’t need to know exactly what happens in the bridal suite but let me assure you - there’s a lot that goes down in there. When you’re searching for a wedding venue, look for one that ensures that your lovely bride-to-be will be in a comfortable, relaxed, and private environment.
Ask your bride what she would ideally like for her and her bridal party. For example, if she finds neutral colors relaxing, don’t pick a venue with a hot pink bridal suite.
Keep in mind that photographers often like to use the bridal suite as a backdrop for some photos. So the overall decor of the room should complement the preferences of your lady.
Keep in mind that not all venues have bridal suites. Unless you have plans on staying at a hotel on the big day, it’s a good idea to pass on venues without dedicated bridal suites.
When you do your walkthroughs, look for a bridal suite that has its own bathroom, complete with bath and shower. A place to store light snacks and plenty of champagne will be very helpful to keep the nerves at bay.
Finally, don’t forget about your own comfort. Ask if the venue has a suite for the groom, and if so, where it’s located. You certainly don’t want to bump into your bride-to-be before the ceremony.
This will also be a great spot for some wedding photos of you and your groomsmen, so make note of whether the room suits your taste.
Are There Any Bar or Entertainment Restrictions?
Thinking of having your best friend’s band play at your wedding? Make sure the venue can accommodate them properly.
Ask if they have any noise restrictions and a place for the band or DJ to set up. Also, does the venue supply the sound system, or will your band/DJ have to bring their own?
If the venue supplies the sound system, ask if there is a fee to use it to play music from your mobile device or laptop.
Are you toying with the idea of booking entertainment, such as magicians, or Cirque du Soleil type performers? Make sure these kinds of acts are permitted on-site or if they have a special area.
When it comes to alcohol, the first step is to make sure the venue has a liquor license. Ask whether you can bring your own drinks, or if you must use their in-house vendors.
Confirm if you can supply your own bar staff or if you need licensed bartenders. You may also want to line up ID checkers as helpers to make sure no one gets too drunk. You may not think it's a big deal if teenagers drink at your wedding. But if a kid gets alcohol poisoning — or someone drives after drinking too much — then some of that liability could fall to you.
If you’re on a shoestring budget, a venue that allows you to bring your own booze means you’ll save a good deal of money. If you have to use their in-house vendors, ask about the corkage fee, their charge for bar staff and if there’s a bar minimum.
Is There A Backup Plan For Inclement Weather?
You might find a venue that has a stunning rooftop garden, complete with fountains and well-trimmed, robust greenery. But that’s no good if the heavens decide to open and your ceremony is rained out.
A responsible wedding venue will provide you with an inclement weather backup plan, like large protective tents, Make sure this is all included in the contract before you sign on the dotted line.
When scouting for venues, look for those that will be able to provide you with a cooling area if temperatures become terribly warm.
Planning a winter wedding? Check to see if the venue has suitable heating, fireplaces or even blankets for guests. These small touches make all the difference.
Off-Peak Season Venue Deals
It's no secret that weddings can be horribly expensive. But before you're tempted to cut corners on food, drinks or entertainment, consider the impact your chosen wedding date has on your overall budget.
Most couples avoid seasons that experience extreme hot or cold. In general, wedding season begins in the early spring and ends during the mid-fall months.
Weddings during the peak season will generally be much more costly than off-season affairs. As such, a January wedding will be far less expensive than having one in the middle of June.
Scouting for the perfect wedding venue is both exciting and stressful. After all, you need to find a space which encompasses the vision you and your bride-to-be have for your special day.
Come to each venue armed with a battery of questions and information. You want to have a rock-solid budget to work against, making note of all required fees.
Have the venue’s coordinator walk you through the facilities at a comfortable pace so you’re free to study it in detail.
If you’re shopping around, ask if you can take photos during your walkthrough in order to make your final comparisons at home. By doing your research, examining all contracts, asking plenty of questions, and visiting the venues in person, you’ll be able to make educated and logical comparisons between venues, leaving you with the best option possible.
If you don’t, you might end up with a wedding no one talks about...to your face, anyway: